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Academic Careers

Cutting Back on Family Aspirations

An article published today on Inside Higher Ed reports new findings on how scientific careers affect family decisions. “Nearly half of female faculty members in top science departments wish they’d had more children, but didn’t because of their careers, while about a quarter of their male counterparts feel the same way,” the article says. 

The study, which was performed by sociologists Elaine Howard Ecklund of Rice University in Houston and Anne Lincoln of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, looked at the marital status, number of children, and weekly hours spent at work of more than 3,400 scientists across all careers stages in top university departments. 

“At each of the career stages examined, men were more likely than women to be married and to have had children. They also had more children than women did — and were less likely to regret not having more children,” the Inside Higher Ed article says. Also, “Women reported working roughly the same number of hours per week as men in graduate school, but more at later stages of their careers.” You can read the full article on Inside Higher Ed.
The original research findings, which were published in PLoS One, also looked at the respondents’ overall satisfaction with their lives and careers. “We show that having fewer children than wished as a result of the science career affects the life satisfaction of science faculty and indirectly affects career satisfaction, and that young scientists (graduate students and postdoctoral fellows) who have had fewer children than wished are more likely to plan to exit science entirely,” the two paper’s authors conclude in PLoS One